Rosetta Stone Language Software

Introduction to the Itty Bitty Courses

Language learning in the past
Once upon a time, learning a language meant mastering grammar, syntax and vocabulary in order to decipher literature. Then came the direct method, popularized by Berlitz. All of a sudden people were learning to use language as it was spoken.

Fluency as the goal
The direct method was a great improvement over what had gone before, and with time new and even better teaching techniques have been developed. But there still remained a problem: What to teach. While new programs could actually steer you toward fluency, they didn't do such a good job of letting you stop halfway. The typical language learner could either buy a comprehensive program or buy set one, then set two and so on until her money or patience ran out. Alternatively, he could buy a phrasebook and hope to learn all 500 key terms and phrases from single repetition cassettes - though he might not know what he was actually saying.

New goals
Today, there is a wealth of language learning products at the beginning level and for many languages, there are fairly comprehensive resources available. At the lower end, some of the best are the "Teach Yourself Instant..." series, giving around 400 key words, and Tuttle's "Instant..." series, which gives 100 key terms and places to use them. These are worthy courses and if you want a moderately rich experience with a moderate investment in study time, they're a must have for Western European and Asia-Pacific languages respectively. To go a little deeper, you can turn to Hawke's Quick and Dirty Guide, which lays out what you need to learn to really live in a different language environment - though you have to get other resources to fill in the information for your particular language. Finally, though, there's the very shallow end in the pool of language learning - the spot where you sit on a step and get your feet wet.

Point-and-Shoot language
The Itty Bitty Courses are at the shallow end. They offer "point-and-shoot" language skills: "Hello. I need that one. Please." When you're done, you won't be an expert, any more than you can become a master photographer with an Instamatic. But you'll be able to express yourself - graciously - whether introducing yourself or asking for the things you need. And you'll have just a few stepping stones into learning more from a non-English speaker if you both are patient. It isn't much, but it's the difference between being the ugly American and an earnest if struggling language learner. And when you need some goodwill in a foreign land, that can be a very big difference. So click on the link for "Using the Courses" to learn how the course works, then run through a course and in just a few days you'll be able say hello, convey your good intentions and graciously ask for what you need in a foreign language.